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What does 'off' imply here? Would the meaning change if we took it out?

  • McVries spoke absently, still looking off towards the road. (from a novel)
  • McVries spoke absently, still looking towards the road. (a made up example)

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"off" here means "away from the focus of attention" or "without any focus".

(To avoid unclear pronouns, I'm going to pretend McVries is a woman)

So the first sentence implies that McVries isn't looking at the person or thing that she normally ought to in her current situation. I imagine she's having a conversation with someone and not meeting their gaze, or there's something she's trying to avoid looking at, like a dead body.

The second sentence suggests McVries was focusing her attention on the road because there's something interesting there.

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